Oh, the teen angst phase. Isn’t that every parent’s favorite LOL! If you haven’t already check out the post that highlights my early childhood experience and religious background, they will give some insights into some of the things I talk about here.
During my middle school and high school years, school and grades were something of constant concern for my parents. Not only was school challenging for me, but I truly didn’t care at that point. When I was at school I was making every effort to not be seen, avoiding peers and teachers as much as possible. I didn’t want to make friends, I didn’t want to get involved, I didn’t want to do anything. What was the point? I didn’t trust that my parents weren’t going to up and move us, so why take the chance at getting my heart broken again.
I was a pretty consistent C student. I was smart enough to know I had to put in some effort, in order to move on to the next grade. I figured I already catch hell anyway so why put in more effort than I had to. My parents knew that, and this tactic didn’t work most of the time for them. I was still regularly in trouble for bringing home Cs and Ds. But at least I wasn’t failing classes and for the most part being an average student kept me invisible just like I wanted it.
I have many memories of bringing home tests or report cards and just spending hours being scolded, threatened, and punished. There is one memory that will always stick out. I failed a math test and had to bring it home over the weekend. Well this particular weekend, my parents were dropping my sister and I off at my aunt’s house because they had plans. The entire trip there my dad was furious, yelling and telling me how I was not allowed to do anything except schoolwork over the weekend. I was grounded regardless of the fact that I wasn’t going to be at home. When we got to my aunt’s house, she could tell that something was wrong because everyone was in a bad mood. I was recovering from crying, my sister and mom were quiet, and dad was bull-faced. When he was mad but couldn’t speak, I always noticed that his lips completely disappeared. It was like he was consciously bolting his mouth shut. My aunt asked me what was wrong, I told her that I was grounded and not allowed to have any fun this weekend. I also said dad spent the entire trip being mad and was yelling a lot.
At that point my dad stormed over to me, lifted me up by my hair and started screaming in my face about how much of a disappointment I was, and disappointments don’t get to have fun. Being lifted up by my hair was terrifying obviously, but I don’t remember the pain of it. I remember my face being hot, I remember being completely embarrassed about this happening in front of my aunt. I remember the sting of being called a disappointment. Eventually my parents finally left, and I could start to relax a bit. My aunt was great, she made sure that all my homework was finished and reviewed the test with me. She took my sister and I out shopping, we went to the pool, got ice cream, she made sure that we BOTH had a fantastic weekend.
It was moments like this that didn’t just stick out in my head. My sister was watching all of this happening too. This motivated her to excel to the best of her ability. She was terrified of experiencing the same treatment I did. She was an honor student, first chair trumpet player, took AP classes as much as she could, she was all around very involved in school. I hated her!! I was getting all the crap, while she was getting all the praise. I hated how differently we were treated, how much more freedom she had, how much easier her life seemed. In hindsight, her life wasn’t nearly as perfect as it seemed at the time. The anxiety from the extreme pressure to perform created some significant lasting damage for her too.
I was involved in a few things, only because my parents knew it was important to have some kind of extracurriculars. I played softball for a while and joined a swim team. The one activity that I did actually enjoy through out my childhood was dance, I was involved with that for a bit in middle school. However, it didn’t bring me happiness like it once did. I was very self-conscious about my weight and couldn’t get past it.
Weight continued to something my mother spent a lot of energy addressing. As I got older and the more weight I gained the harsher the treatment was. Clothing was controlled by her, she had to make sure I didn’t look too fat. Comments about pictures were often negative because I looked fat in them. I was questioned about what I was eating all the time. There was a lot of hurtful words used to describe how she thought I looked… a whale, a walrus, a pig… you get the idea, a lot of large animals. I was sent to weight loss camps and dietitians, but never sent to a psychologist. I was told many times that my weight is why I have no friends. I was told I will never go on dates as long as I look this way because no one will want me. I truly hated myself because of the way I looked. I really believed for a long time that I was completely hideous and unworthy of anything good because of that.
During my high school years I did start to acquire friendships, but they weren’t the friends that my parents deemed worthy. I was hanging out with a lot of kids in the foster system. Looking back at that, it does make sense. Unstable home lives, moving around a lot, not very involved with school. We had a lot of the same shared experiences. I will admit, probably not the best influences but they were the people who seemed to understand me the best. I was introduced to some bad habits hanging out with this crowd. I began drinking, smoking, and skipping a good bit of school. I was also a bit of a klepto during high school. I got really good at steal things that my parents didn’t want me to have (makeup, sex toys, clothes, music, jewelry, etc.). Eventually it created a situation where I was truly living a double life. On the inside, I was a rebel full of rage. But to my parents and the rest of the world, I was a shy good girl.
Around freshman year I realized that working was something that my parents valued a lot and would allow me to get out of the house from time to time for. I started with babysitting for people at church and friends of my parents. At 15 I got my first job at Chik-Fil-A, I wasn’t able to do anything accept run the register because you had to be at least 16 to handle the food. It was great, I was working with kids my age and didn’t have to deal with my parents for a few hours. When I turned 16 and got my license I decided to get a job at a local craft store. I have always been an artsy person and was really excited about that job. I was also working more, especially on the weekends. For the first time in my life I finally started to experience some level of freedom and it was amazing!
By 17, I was all about work, I started working at Old Navy and my god that was where I found a home. I made some really close connections there, met my first love, received real praise and guidance. I was taking as many shifts as possible, during busy seasons and the summer I was working over 30 hours some weeks. I was able to purchase my own wardrobe without my parent’s consent, I was hanging out with friends on a regular basis, it gave me a lot of freedom that I wasn’t used to. I was confident there, I could be myself there, I was home there. This didn’t help things at school at all! Finding a place that made me happy meant I cared even less about going to school.
I was regularly skipping class at this point. Most days I took my sister to school and would go to homeroom for attendance then sneak out the back door to go meet my boyfriend for the day. He was taking college classes at the local community college, so we were able to hang out there a lot. His parents worked so if he didn’t have class we would be at his house. If he wasn’t available I would make plans with friends to go on random road trips or day drink. Then I would make my way back to school to pick up my sister. Most of the time I would drop her off at home and head straight to work from there.
My grades started to slip, my average went from mostly Cs to mostly Ds. There were a few classes that I was riding the line between passing and failing. The last couple of months before graduation I did start going to class more because I didn’t was to deal with going to summer school. I just wanted to be done! My parents were not happy, but they were also wanting to be done with me and school. Mom once again ending up doing a lot of my schoolwork so I would scrape by and graduate on time.
The summer after graduation was really hard. I broke up with my boyfriend, friends were moving away, and my parents were increasing the pressure about college and maintaining a very tight grip on me. I couldn’t handle it and ended up running away from home. But I’ll go into that later.
Hope you guys are enjoying the ride so far! I have to say taking the step to share all of this has been way more therapeutic than just keeping it in a journal. If you want updates on new posts please subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of the page. You can also find me on social media with the links at the bottom of the page, where you will find other cool content too.